What’s in a name change? Schools build identities over decades and these identities are often rooted in founders’ philosophies and missions.
When Lowell Whiteman School changed its name, and identity to Steamboat Mountain School, we knew there was a good story; we spoke with Pearson Alspach, Steamboat Mountain’s admission director to ask, ‘why the name change and what kind of work and thinking goes into such a big change?’
Why the name change now?
As our Head Meg Morse says, “The name Steamboat Mountain School defines the type of school we are. The name captures our mountain ethic and provides a strong sense of place.” The timing was right to rename the school more descriptively.
Lowell Whiteman, the school’s founder, believed wholeheartedly that to keep teenagers healthy and happy, his school needed to provide two things: challenging academics along with plenty of exhilarating adventure. The name “Lowell Whiteman” means a lot to the school’s community but not to the world at large. Though the name has changed and the school is moving into the future, Steamboat Mountain School keeps its roots firmly planted in Lowell’s vision. Its interconnected programs — rigorous academics, authentic cultural immersion through international travel, competitive skiing and riding, and outdoor adventure (from backpacking to kayaking to ice climbing) — would make Lowell proud.
What’s changed — about the school or the world — that makes a rebranding, or name change beneficial?
The worldwide economy has changed, technology has changed, the need for service around the world has increased, and the spread of information has exploded. Today’s parents and students are looking for schools that offer solid global educations within a framework of interrelated and unique programs. The name “Steamboat Mountain School” resonates worldwide. The town of Steamboat is known for its world-class outdoor opportunities, and we are a school that has a strong love of place. We take full advantage of all that this part of the Rockies has to offer, from winter sports to mountain biking to white-water rafting. We want our name to reveal more about the school itself than did “Lowell Whiteman School.”
No other college-prep boarding and day school offers students the combination of academics, global experience, outdoor exploration, and competitive winter snow sports that we do. Steamboat Mountain School is a unique place. We hope the new name will enhance our position in the world-wide market as we take Lowell’s vision of “Academics and Adventure” into the future.
If my math is correct, Lowell Whiteman was the school’s name and identity for about 57 years, what kinds of thought, planning, and work goes into this kind of identity change?
The school and board of trustees were very thoughtful and deliberate about the name change. The school contracted with Catalone Design Co. who first conducted focus groups with all of the school’s constituents. After the initial research phase, it became very clear that as long as the school’s commitment to rigorous college-prep academics and one-of-a-kind outdoor and global programs would not change, people were supportive of the process.
Does an education piece about why the school is changing names come into play for alumni?
The school is starting a legacy endowment and campaign to ensure that Lowell Whiteman School alumni children will be able to attend the school.
How do you explain it to them?
Lowell Whiteman was a traveler, outdoorsman, adventurer, horseman, cowboy, and entrepreneur and Steamboat Mountain School bears his Renaissance man imprint today.
Lowell Whiteman had a can-do attitude and always made sure he did the right thing for the sake of the school. His family was very supportive throughout the rebranding process gave us their blessing. In their words, “Lowell would have said, ‘do what you need to do!’”
How has the first year as Steamboat Mountain School gone?
We officially announced the new name and hosted a ribbon cutting in October during Parents’ Weekend and went live with our new website.
The feedback has been great! It’s wonderful to have positive name recognition and so exciting to engage people. Now that people from Colorado to New England to China know where we are, we can share our unique stories with them.
It’s fun to be on the road and see the excitement in kids’ eyes when they discover they can go to school and ski/ride in beautiful Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
We would love to be a resource for schools about rebranding — contact us with questions about the process!